Eating With Kristen Schaal: Oyster Shooters, Monkey Brains, and the Tyranny of Onions
Lisa Whiteman/The Morning News
Actress, writer, and comedienne Kristen Schaal is best known for her role as Mel, Flight of the Conchords's backpack-wearing, one-woman fan club. She's also played a switchboard operator on Mad Men, made numerous appearances as the Daily Show's Senior Women's Issues Commentator, and performed in comedy clubs and festivals around the world. Schaal, who's also been collaborating with The Daily Show's Rich Blomquist on a sex guide called, appropriately, The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex, spoke with Fork in the Road about the "culinary playground" that is New York, why she hates onions, why she loves Prune, and the peerless beauty of oysters.
What's in your refrigerator?
A yogurt and a beer.
Which neighborhood do you live in, and where do you like to eat there?
Hell's Kitchen. Keens, Taboon, Nizza, 44 & X.
Where do you like to drink, and why?
Prune makes the best vodka martinis up and dirty. The olives are always good and they taste buttery and perfect. Blue Ribbon in Park Slope is a very close second.
Where's the restaurant/food store/bar we'd be most likely to find you in on your day off?
Prune, drinking delicious martinis and sucking up bone marrow. You're known in part for playing an obsessive fan on Flight of the Conchords -- are there any foods, restaurants, bars, or weird food implements that you're obsessed with?
I love oysters. I like them raw and plain. I don't like it when sushi restaurants prepare them with a sauce before they serve them. Each oyster is so unique -- one is sweet, another creamy, briny, meaty; I want to taste all of it. When you drench them in sauce you overpower their subtleties. It's like pouring cocktail sauce in white wine. I also love oyster shooters and try to order one whenever possible. So far the most incredible shooters have come from California. I just had one in San Francisco that used a vanilla flavored sake, quail egg, and lime. It was perfection. I'd like to make a coffee table book of oyster shooters from around the world. Is there a restaurant where you go more for the service and ambience than the food?
What do you eat when nobody's watching?
I'm not ashamed of any food. I think it's lucky that we have such an abundance of it available. But if there was one thing that I wouldn't want people to know about, it would be the time I ate monkey brains in Vietnam while the poor guy was still kicking.
What do you eat before or after doing a show?
When you're filming Conchords, are you more likely to hit craft services or find something to eat in the neighborhood? Are there any cast/crew standbys?
Nutella sandwiches are a constant that keeps everyone happy.
Is there anything you refuse to eat?
I try to avoid onions. I think they are the bully of vegetables. I can unfortunately always pick out an onion hidden in any gourmet medley. And then its sour flavor sits on my tongue for hours. Even after a scrub down. I hate them.
On a similar note, what's the most disgusting thing you've ever eaten? Monkey brains. Where's your favorite place to get a slice of pizza?
I like the Sicilian slice at Two Boots. I prefer my crusts thick. And my men.
Where do you eat most often?
I have been to Keens a lot. I like to take out-of-town guests there because it's such a special place. Every time I walk in I feel like I have passed into another era. And the steak melts in your mouth.
Do you cook?
In my dreams.
What's been the most memorable meal of your life so far?
A Greek restaurant in Melbourne served a special that had all the organs of a rabbit prepared in the most perfect, succulent way. I did one of the best shows of my life after that meal, I credit it to that lucky rabbit.
When you moved to New York, did you have any food experiences that helped to define New York as a city for you?
My family never really went out to eat. So I do feel like I am making up for it in one of the best culinary playgrounds around.
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